In defence of Chief Justice Mahase
I WAS in Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase’s court last week in a matter in which the suspended Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara has petitioned the High Court to order King Letsie III to revoke her suspension. I walked away from that courtroom wondering why some people will do anything to pursue even the most futile of causes.
As a starting point the petitioner – the suspended Justice Majara – wrongfully and intentionally refers to herself as the Chief Justice of Lesotho in that petition in violation of and indeed in contempt of a constitutionally sanctioned suspension by His Majesty. That reference to or citation of herself as the Chief Justice is a very worrying development.
It all boils down to this. That the suspended Chief Justice – and presumably on the advice of her lawyers – does not recognize the Constitution or the King or both. That she has a case against His Majesty is her constitutional right. But the non – recognition of the Constitution by somebody in her position is quite a different matter altogether and is somewhat very unfortunate and regrettable.
We are all duty and honour bound to respect the law and its processes. That we may not agree with certain measures undertaken against us does not entitle us to disregard or ignore those measures. This is why the suspended Chief Justice Majara must acknowledge and accept her suspension as a lawful measure by a lawful authority and abide by it even if she intends to challenge that legality like she has done through this petition.
The fact of the matter is that she has been suspended. Acting Chief Justice Mahase has been duly appointed to the position she has vacated. That is the reality on the ground. The consequences would otherwise be beyond chaotic. We cannot have two persons each calling themselves or referring to themselves as the Chief Justice of this country. One of them – Chief Justice Mahase rightly and lawfully so – and the other – suspended Justice Majara whispering on the sidelines so to speak- refusing to accept her fate.
On that score alone, that petition should have been thrown out of court. It was improperly placed before the court and its framers ought to have known better than that. How Justice Mahase was supposed to give an audience to people at war not only with her appointment but who in fact before her very eyes usurp a title only befitting her will always be a mystery to me.
The preliminary issues in that ill–written petition were also way off tangent. That petition cited Chief Justice Mahase as the third respondent merely referring to her as Justice Mahase. Talk about contempt and me and you may be singing from the same hymn book. Having been so cited the lawyers for the suspended Justice Majara then argued that she – Justice Mahase – was conflicted in the matter because she had been cited as a respondent. That citation being at the behest of the very people who before her raise it to disqualify her.
In any event Chief Justice Mahase, to her credit, indicated that she was only presiding over the matter only for purposes of re–allocating it to other judges and not to get into the merits of the case and decide it. Clearly avoiding any conflict of interest that may arise.
But lawyers will always be lawyers. Especially when they sense defeat smelling in the air. On and on they went trumpeting a conflict of interest that the court was trying to resolve and you did not have to be a lawyer to appreciate the position of the court on this matter. But in all fairness let us leave that decision to the court and move on.
Last week – three lawyers of the same feather – went out of their way to castigate this newspaper for having consistently shown a tendency to be pro – government or something misplaced to that degree. The statement sent shivers down my spine and I said to myself that if this is not media bashing then nothing will ever qualify as such.
When the news broke that the suspended Chief Justice’s lawyer had advised her to ignore her suspension and go to work – these lawyers claim the news was intended to jolt the Attorney General into action to slap her with an order barring her from the High Court. If anything, this is dangerous speculation.
The Attorney General needs no prompting to undertake action to avert a potential illegality in the form of an ill – conceived piece of advice that the suspended Chief Justice should ignore her suspension and bulldoze her way to work.
But my fear is that bashing the media in this way as either pro this or that can only drive a wedge between a newspaper that prides itself with reporting news without fear or favour and some sections of our society. Any fair and unbiased reading of any news in this paper undeniably points to a publication that takes no sides but which has provided an invaluable and diverse forum for readers from all walks of life.
This is playing the man and not the ball. If news leaks that is what democracy is all about. The media has an obligation to keep us informed and if the dissemination of such information makes some people uncomfortable as it invariably does sometimes so be it. As long it is done within the requisite bounds of decency everything goes.